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Tribune Publishers /
Finishline / John Deere


Waterfield Technologies owns the license to the Special Messages Web Administration Product I designed, which is being used by Tribune Newspapers and Finishline. John Deere also had a custom Special Messages  tool I designed for them, which contained many of the early elements I added later to the Special Messages Web Admin Product. 


UX Researcher, Product Designer


 IVR systems often have a feature called, "Special Messages" built in. This allows clients to quickly record and upload short messages at need, such as for holidays or revised business hours, without having to have designers and programmers update their design.

For many of these clients, there had never been an interface with usability and visual design for them to use in loading, updating, or running these messages. This not only creates confusion for those posting, it requires more training, and puts them at risk for running mistaken messages or no message at all.  



The software I was designing would be used by multiple companies, with their particular needs and language being uploaded into the UI I designed. This meant I needed to think in an agnostic fashion that focused on building a template that could be adapted for many industries. I built it out for the Tribune Newspapers first, as they had the most demanding needs and highest number of Business Units.


I began by diving into the existing Web Admin interface in order to understand the flow involved in creating, posting, and storing Special Messages. The first issue I idenitied was that all Special Messages for over 18 Business Units were stored according to when they were posted, which forced users to search long lists of messages to look for the one they needed. Even if you had uploaded the message, you would have to search for it through dozens of other entries from other business units all over the country. 

Sandbox search for every message
No discernable architecture to the information
Searching for your business units' post through many pages.

Information Architecture 

Special Messages Drop Down Version.png
Started to add sort functions and get clear on the business units (newspapers in this example)

First things first, I had to choose the most efficient and usable way to organize the messages. For clarity's sake, letting each business unit look at their own list of messages couldn't be beat.


I always sketch out the user flows by hand, and spend time asking questions about why things go where they go, and how they can go somewhere else that might improve efficiency and usability. This is also my time to notice challenges and question why they are there and what other possibilities can take their place. 

Blank Notebook
image4 (1).jpeg

I noticed it was impossible for each unit to tell when a Special Message was active. They were effectively blind to whether they had a message running or not. 

Prior to the formal Special Messages Web Administration Product, I had worked out many of the issues and workflows for Special Messages by designing a Special Messages Administration interface for John Deere. My notes and sketches from that project definitely fed into this more developed version, specifically, the way the flow of posting a Special Message was visually supported in a website structure.

I also did the AI Training in Google Dialogflow for John Deere's IVR. 


I wanted each business unit to be able to have a highly visual way of looking at their materials, so that it was simple to engage with their own content. I experimented with the idea of each having their own color, but decided concentrating on a certain uniformity would help focus on the message.

Version 1

Clear information architecture.

Version 2

SketchSpecial Messages Newspaper Scroll Version.png
Elgin Lake County to Pioneer Elm.png

Prototype Version

Business Units Version 2.png

Business units that are blue have a Special Message that is LIVE. 

Business Units Version 2.png

In the end, I felt the calm clarity of having each unit as part of the greater team helped encourage cohesiveness. 

We also added the ability to post Special Messages in other languages, even for the same business unit. I used the small numeric notation to show if a unit was running more than one message.

Home Page

Special Message Sign In.png

Business Unit Home Page

Newspaper Individual Home Grayed Out.png

We added the ability to upload a Special Message, but not have it go live, and allow it to be assigned to multiple business units. I call it the Global Special Messages page. 

Special Messages Global.png

Next Steps

I'm happy to say that the usability and clarity added to the process of uploading and running Special Messages with this product has been received with wild joy. Yes, joy, because no one has to wonder if their message was correctly posted or if it's live. I am currently working with the programmers as they build it.  

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